Choose Your Own Kiwi Adventure: Top Tips for an Epic New Zealand Trip
Choose Your Own Kiwi Adventure: Top Tips for an Epic New Zealand Trip - Pack Light For NZ's Varied Weather
When packing for a trip to New Zealand, the key is to travel light while being prepared for the country’s famously fickle weather. Kiwis joke that you can experience all four seasons in a day, so having versatile layers and rain gear is a must. At the same time, you’ll want to leave room in your bag for all the souvenirs you’ll accumulate along the way.
The North and South Islands have very different climates, so check the forecast for your destinations. The mild North is subtropical, while the South can be quite cold and snowy in winter. Coastal areas are generally more temperate than alpine regions. Average highs range from 50s°F on the South Island to 70s°F up north. But temperatures can fluctuate wildly, especially when venturing into the mountains.
Savvy travelers recommend packing lightweight, quick-drying synthetic fabrics. Merino wool is ideal, as is high-tech performance wear from outdoor brands like Patagonia, The North Face and Arc’teryx. Locals live in “tramping” (hiking) gear, so don’t hesitate to travel in technical pants, base layers, fleece and windbreakers.
Always carry a compact rain jacket, as rain can come on suddenly even during sunny spells. The coasts are windy, so a lightweight shell is useful. Scarves, beanies and gloves are handy during the Southern winter. Sturdy walking shoes or hiking boots are recommended for exploring, along with sandals for the beach.
Minimize your gear by choosing versatile pieces like zip-off travel pants, dresses you can layer, and shoes like Allbirds that work for hikes and evenings out. Clever totes like the Patagonia Black Hole Duffel can be packed lightly, then stuffed full on the trip home.
When visiting both islands, pack more for the South and plan to purge and re-pack mid-trip. Store extra luggage at Auckland or Christchurch airports while traveling light between destinations. Or use a suitcase with a detachable daypack. Consider laundromats – washing a few essentials means packing even less.
Talk to your accommodations about laundry services to avoid over-packing. Plan to pick up gear like cheap rain jackets and fleece locally if needed. Shop Thrift stores for wool sweaters to bundle up in style.
What else is in this post?
- Choose Your Own Kiwi Adventure: Top Tips for an Epic New Zealand Trip - Pack Light For NZ's Varied Weather
- Choose Your Own Kiwi Adventure: Top Tips for an Epic New Zealand Trip - Research Seasonal Highlights By Region
- Choose Your Own Kiwi Adventure: Top Tips for an Epic New Zealand Trip - Mix Urban And Rural For Diverse Experiences
- Choose Your Own Kiwi Adventure: Top Tips for an Epic New Zealand Trip - Consider Campervans For Flexible Transport
- Choose Your Own Kiwi Adventure: Top Tips for an Epic New Zealand Trip - Book Some Multi-Day Great Walks In Advance
- Choose Your Own Kiwi Adventure: Top Tips for an Epic New Zealand Trip - Look Into Deals On Local Airfare
- Choose Your Own Kiwi Adventure: Top Tips for an Epic New Zealand Trip - Allow Time For Slow Travel & Spontaneity
- Choose Your Own Kiwi Adventure: Top Tips for an Epic New Zealand Trip - Maximize Miles For Long Haul Flights
Choose Your Own Kiwi Adventure: Top Tips for an Epic New Zealand Trip - Research Seasonal Highlights By Region
New Zealand's dramatic landscapes look magnificent any time of year, but each region has unique seasonal highlights that are worth timing your travels around. With advance research, you can discover when vibrant fall colors, baby animals, festivals or other special events will overlap with your itinerary. Coordinating with the optimal conditions really takes your experience up a notch.
For example, winter is an ideal time to visit the Franz Josef and Fox glaciers on the South Island's dramatic West Coast. During the colder months from April to November, these icy giants advance down into the temperate rainforest, making for once-in-a-lifetime views. Time a hike during winter or spring when the terminal faces are most dramatic. Come prepared with crampons and layers for full immersion.
Speaking of spring, this is when New Zealand transforms into a veritable flower garden. Vibrant wildflower displays start creeping across the landscape in September. Come October, canola fields in Marlborough and Canterbury burst into sunny blooms of gold. The spring shoulder season means smaller crowds and lower costs, while the flowers are at their peak.
For wine lovers, don't miss Central Otago in April during autumn harvest and fall foliage. Sip world-class Pinot Noir among fiery displays of red and gold leaves. Hawke's Bay's acclaimed wineries also host harvest festivals in autumn. And the Bay of Plenty's ample orchards harvest deliciously juicy kiwifruit and avocados for spring and summer travelers to enjoy.
Of course, no trip to New Zealand is complete without seeing sheep and this is easiest during lambing in the summer months from September to December when the adorable young graze paddocks with their mothers. You may even spot them frolicking energetically, bringing endless delight. Don't miss an opportunity to get up close to fluffy new lambs for an experience that's uniquely Kiwi.
Speaking of quintessential experiences, ski culture abounds on both islands during the Southern Hemisphere winter from June to October. Queenstown offers terrain for all levels, from the Remarkables to Coronet Peak, while club fields exude their own local vibe. Mount Hutt is easily accessible from Christchurch. Volcanic Mount Ruapehu on the North Island combines skiing and hot springs.
And finally, don't underestimate the power of major festivals and sporting events to infuse regions with infectious energy. In rugby-crazed New Zealand, catch All Blacks matches in autumn or see yachting's America's Cup in Auckland next summer. Partake in celebrations like the Lantern Festival marking Chinese New Year in Auckland, or get your folk music fix at Wellington's World of WearableArt Awards.
Choose Your Own Kiwi Adventure: Top Tips for an Epic New Zealand Trip - Mix Urban And Rural For Diverse Experiences
New Zealand's stunning landscapes are undoubtedly the main draw for many visitors. However, mixing up rural natural wonders with vibrant urban stays makes for a more diverse and memorable vacation. By blending world-class cities with off-the-beaten-path adventures, you get the best of both worlds.
Big cities like Auckland and Wellington offer a chance to experience Kiwi culture through museums, restaurants, street art scenes, and locally loved cafes. You can people watch in bustling squares, check out markets and boutiques, or dance the night away with young locals blowing off steam.
Urban stays provide luxuries like high-end hotels, craft cocktail bars, and diverse culinary options from modern Kiwi to world fusion. Cities are transportation hubs with airports and buses to whisk you away on your next adventure. Or you can take day trips to nearby attractions.
Auckland's waterfront Viaduct Harbor area pulses with trendy bars and yachts, while edgy Karangahape Road flaunts indie shops and street art. Art lovers can explore the Auckland Art Gallery's collections spanning Maori heritage to contemporary works. Foodies indulge in diverse flavors from hawker stalls at night markets to upscale Kiwi-Asian fusion.
Wellington marries quirky creativity with an energetic harborside vibe. For city views, ride the iconic red cable car up to the Wellington Botanic Garden. Browse the excellent Te Papa Museum chronicling the country's natural and cultural history. Or people watch while grazing at night markets serving artisan cheese, chocolate, and craft beer.
After enjoying these cosmopolitan comforts, New Zealand's awe-inspiring landscapes beckon. Lush forests, dramatic coastlines, bubbling thermal pools, and alpine landscapes will reset your spirit. But rural destinations also have their own cultural charms, from Maori villages to local artisans.
Base yourself at a rural eco-lodge to access both outdoor adventures and cultural connections. Try glamping in canvas tents at Footprints Waipoua to explore the mystical Waipoua Kauri Forest. Mountain bike or kayak by day, then savor farm-to-table dinners featuring local fare. At Riverstone Country Lodge near Nelson, you can craft your own glass art, learn about the region's historic heritage, and relax in the sauna on site.
Mixing urban and rural settings keeps experiences fresh and exposes you to diverse perspectives. After soaking up Maori history at a cultural center, try a virtual reality tour of historical Auckland at the lively SkyCity entertainment complex. Or contrast the rugged Tasman coastline with Nelson's thriving arts scene.
Choose Your Own Kiwi Adventure: Top Tips for an Epic New Zealand Trip - Consider Campervans For Flexible Transport
For travelers seeking the ultimate in freedom and flexibility, campervans are the way to roll in New Zealand. These versatile vehicles empower you to smoothly shift between destinations at your own pace while carrying your accommodation along for the ride. Savvy navigators advise considering campervans to keep transport seamless and spontaneous rather than tedious and time-consuming.
Long-haul buses between cities only operate a few times daily, and remote hiking trails aren’t conveniently accessible on public transport. Domestic flights are limited and can be pricey for budget-minded travelers. Rental cars offer flexibility but still require booking accommodation separately. This is where campervans shine.
Your home on wheels means the ability to chase ideal weather and wild landscapes while avoiding crowds. See that hidden waterfall or secluded beach on the map? Just pull over and make the most of it at a moment’s notice! Campervans grant off-the-beaten-path freedom without the hassle of repacking each day.
Fellow vagabonds speak fondly of cruising between destinations in their cozy campers, soaking up ever-changing vistas along the way. Pulling over lets you follow your whims, whether it’s photographing fields of purple lupines in Takaka Valley or waiting for the perfect golden sunset over Lake Benmore. Meandering unpaved backroads at your own relaxed pace reveals small towns and wayside treats you’d otherwise miss.
With your rolling abode, accommodations are sorted whenever drowsiness kicks in. Searching for lodging late at night is never an issue. No more arriving after a long journey only to find fully booked hotels. Just settle into your familiar bed in your trusty van to sleep soundly surrounded by nature’s peace.
When you’re road tripping off peak season, winging it with a campervan means bargains abound. Save on accommodation by parking up at inexpensive Department of Conservation campsites and Holiday Parks found across the country. Cook your own meals and soak up the surroundings for the ultimate in affordability and adventure.
Local rental companies like Jucy, Maui and Britz offer better deals than major international providers. Consider repositioning specials to save substantially. Companies move vans between islands seasonally, so one-way deals can mean you pay barely more than a single day’s rental. Just be sure to account for the Cook Strait ferry crossing.
Choose Your Own Kiwi Adventure: Top Tips for an Epic New Zealand Trip - Book Some Multi-Day Great Walks In Advance
Among avid trampers, New Zealand's Great Walks rank as the pinnacle of hiking achievements. These world-class trails allow deep immersion in diverse landscapes, from beach walks to alpine routes across glaciers or along volcanic peaks. With incredible scenery comes incredible demand, so booking well ahead ensures you can hike these famous tracks.
New Zealand limits access to protect the environment and enhance the experience. Independent walkers must reserve spots in advance on the 9 Great Walks, which have designated campsites or huts spaced a day's tramp apart. Booking early is key, as these beds fill fast, especially during the peak summer season of October to April. Some huts, like those along the legendary Milford Track or Routeburn Track, sell out a year in advance, particularly for the peak of January.
Securing your spot means skipping the stress of showing up and finding no vacancies on these heavily trodden trails. Fellow wanderers strongly advise booking 6 to 12 months ahead for peak season. You’ll sleep soundly in your bunk knowing it’s sorted. For winter hiking from May to September, you may get away with booking a few weeks in advance, but don't risk having your heart set on a particular Great Walk, only to lose your chance.
Booking ahead also lets you select from a specific range of dates to align with optimal hiking conditions and your schedule. Comprehensive planning ensures you complete tracks before permits lapse. Guided groups snap up large hut and camp allotments well in advance, so independent walkers are wise to follow suit.
Despite extra logistics, Kiwi hikers insist the Hassle is worth the spectacular privilege of experiencing these tracks. raving about the rewards of walking legendary routes like the Kepler Track, Abel Tasman Coast Track or Tongariro Northern Circuit. Beyond bragging rights, completing Great Walks means collecting memories and photos that will last a lifetime.
Booking early also provides motivation to get in shape for challenges like the demanding Routeburn or Lake Waikaremoana Great Walk. Give yourself time for training hikes with a full pack. Starting the season on easier tracks allows you to build fitness and dial in your gear. Saving the hardest routes for later when you're trail-ready.
Choose Your Own Kiwi Adventure: Top Tips for an Epic New Zealand Trip - Look Into Deals On Local Airfare
Flight prices within New Zealand can really vary, so once you've booked your long haul flight to this island nation, consider shopping around for deals on airfare between the North and South Islands or to more remote destinations.
Whilebuses, trains and rental cars provide ground transport options between the islands and across regions, flights can maximize your time exploring rather than traveling. With New Zealand’s notoriously fickle weather, flights also reduce chances of disruptions delaying road and rail itineraries.
International travelers are often surprised to learn that affordable local carriers compete for domestic routes across the Land of the Long White Cloud. Knowing your options saves dollars and takes you from city to wilderness quickly. Say you land in Auckland and want to venture south to dramatic fjords or east to geothermal wonders — you’ll likely score lower fares flying than driving 12 hours each way.
Jetstar and Air New Zealand hop between major hubs, while smaller airlines like Air Chathams or Sounds Air connect less traveled spots like the remote beaches of Chatham Islands or secluded Milford Sound. Shop around as substantial savings can be found, especially when booking advance purchase fares. Sign up for airline email lists and social media to receive sale alerts.
Third party search engines like Skyscanner, Google Flights and the local site Grabaseat aggregate options across airlines for easy comparison. Flight deal gurus suggest Tuesdays offer lower domestic fares as airlines compete for market share. Departing midweek also avoids the crowds headed out for weekend adventures.
Don’t just look at the price, but also flight duration and connections. A cheap fare with long layovers can mean losing most of a day. Some remote areas only have a handful of daily flights, so search carefully. Off peak season means fewer frequencies and full planes that sell out more readily.
Consider flying one way and returning by ferry, bus or campervan to maximize flexibility. Just watch for deals on return airfares that still offer savings over one-way fares. Explore south from mountainous Queenstown through Fiordland National Park, then up the coast via InterCity bus or ferry through the Marlborough Sounds back to Picton.
For North Island airfare deals, capitalize on major routes between Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch competing for travelers. Last minute fares sometimes plummet if planes aren’t full, so check back if your dates are flexible. But booking 21 or more days ahead yields the best rates.
Sign up for fare alerts from travel hacking sites The Flight Deal or Secret Flying so you’re the first to jump on a good promotion and lock in limited seats at low fares. For last minute deals, check Grabaseat right before departure.
Consider airline status and frequent flyer points that allow flight reward redemptions with Air New Zealand’s Airpoints programme or Jetstar’s Jetperks. Even one discount regional flight can help you accrue points towards North Island to South Island flights in premium cabins for your next trip.
Choose Your Own Kiwi Adventure: Top Tips for an Epic New Zealand Trip - Allow Time For Slow Travel & Spontaneity
In our rushed modern world, travel has become just another item to check off your to-do list. But avid Kiwi explorers urge newcomers to embrace the laidback New Zealand way by allowing ample time for wandering where the road takes you. By traveling slowly and spontaneously, you’ll be rewarded with unexpected delights that perfectly encapsulate the spirit of this enchanting country.
Trying to cram too much into a short visit only breeds exhaustion and frustration when inevitably missing activities due to weather or circumstance. Savvy navigators of New Zealand praise the merits of unhurried travel with room to spontaneously stray from the set itinerary. This flexibility lets you adapt to changing conditions and follow your bliss each day.
Attempting to rigorously schedule every hour tends to backfire in these remote islands where weather and winding roads have their own agenda. Locals are the first to remind visitors that what matters most is enjoying the journey, not just ticking off destinations. Letting moments unfold naturally enhances your experience exponentially.
Fellow adventurers regale epic tales that flowed from travelers being open to spontaneous invitations and unexpected discoveries. Their most treasured memories trace back to veering off-plan, like stumbling upon hidden waterfalls or accepting a local's offer to show shellfish beds at low tide. Winging it rewards you with precious vignettes of Kiwi life.
Trying to over-plan in New Zealand paradoxically causes you to miss out on quintessential experiences unique to its landscapes and people. Locals understand how to let the land’s rhythms guide your days. Scenic drives are best enjoyed by stopping frequently to absorb views that catch your eye.
Time expands on meandering hikes when you pause to appreciate the little wonders, from exquisite alpine wildflowers to glimpses of soaring native birds. Following what feels right in the moment leads to memorable moments with new friends made along the way.
By designating around 30% of your time to spontaneous detours, you balance must-sees with going with the flow. Seek accommodation with flexible cancellation policies. Scope out attractions along your driving route so you can pull over at will. Let fellow travelers tip you off to worthy wayside stops for short walks with epic payoffs requiring little commitment.
Choose Your Own Kiwi Adventure: Top Tips for an Epic New Zealand Trip - Maximize Miles For Long Haul Flights
Considering the staggering distance from New Zealand to almost anywhere, long haul flights are a necessary evil to access these stunning islands. However, savvy Kiwi travelers aim to make the most of those long hours in the skies by maximizing frequent flyer miles and airline status. With a bit of strategizing, you can accrue enough rewards for free flights, seat upgrades or airport lounge access to ease the burden of long distance travel.
The first step is choosing airlines with generous loyalty programs for your routes down under. Air New Zealand and Qantas both offer solid rewards through their Airpoints and Qantas Frequent Flyer schemes respectively. Sign up well in advance to give yourself time to build up points balances.
Aim to concentrate your spending on one program rather than dividing it among multiple carriers. This helps you quickly ascend status tiers for perks like priority boarding and baggage, lounge entry, and mileage bonuses to fast track elite status. Consider credit cards that multiply miles earned on that airline.
Book directly through the airline website rather than third parties to ensure miles are credited. Provide your frequent flyer number at every opportunity, from booking to airport check-in. Partner hotels and rental car agencies can also direct earn you miles for stays.
Take advantage of special promotions that offer bonus miles for certain routes, travel periods or fare classes. Sign up for email/social alerts so you can jump on limited-time deals. The savviest Kiwi travelers even plan trips around promos that help them requalify for status.
Fly in premium cabins whenever possible. Top elite tiers earn anywhere from 25% to 100% more miles for flying business versus economy. Upgrade strategic flight segments using miles, certificates or cash copays.
Check programs’ online shopping portals that provide additional miles for purchases with affiliate retailers. Sign up for dining programs that reward miles for eating at participating restaurants on the ground. Consider transferring flexible credit card points to the airline program for a boost.
Once you’ve built up a healthy balance, strategically redeem miles for maximum value. Use them for long haul flights in premium cabins that can cost thousands in fares, or study sweet spot redemptions. Don’t waste miles on short cheap flights easily purchased with cash. Consider positioning flights to access better award availability.